UCF football suffers tough loss to Tulsa again

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Once again, UCF football lost to Tulsa on Saturday night 34-26. The disaster started with penalties - 18 flags for 124 yards plus three turnovers. That’s clearly not a winning formula, and it showed on the scoreboard. UCF gave up an 18-point first half lead that snapped the Knights’ 21-game home winning streak.

Tulsa was the last team to beat the Knights at home with a 35-20 win back on Nov. 19, 2016. In what seemed like a five-hour game, there was lots of passing and lots of mistakes. With a 26-21 lead late in the fourth quarter, Tulsa quarterback Zach Smith connected on a 13-yard bullet pass to Keylon Stokes to give Tulsa a 31-26 lead with just over 12 minutes remaining in the game that ultimately gave the Golden Hurricane the win.

Kicker Zack Long tallied a 34-yard field goal with 1:30 remaining to make it a 34-26 game. This forced UCF to make a last-minute comeback, which was just too much to ask for an offense that struggled throughout the game. Central Florida had driven into Tulsa territory with seconds remaining, but after a flag and another 10-yard holding penalty, the Knights were pushed out of the red zone, and Dillon Gabriel‘s last shot Hail Mary pass came short.

Gabriel didn’t play horrible but didn’t play great either. He was 28 of 51 for 330 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Smith had 273 passing yards, and running back T.K. Wilkerson had 86 yards and a touchdown on the ground. Tulsa’s running game seemed to exhaust UCF’s defense down the stretch. In what was a big win for Tulsa, this was its first win against a top-15 team since 1991.

UCF blows early lead

UCF was winning 23-5 with 1:39 left in the first half. Tulsa scored quickly and drove down the field to make the score 23-12 at halftime. Tulsa forced a fumble and recovered on the opening kickoff of the third quarter. On Tulsa’s next play, Smith threw a 34-yard dart for a touchdown to Sam Crawford Jr. to make it 23-19 ball game. The next drive, UCF tallied a 26-yard field goal which made it 26-19. On the following possession for Tulsa, it scored but missed the extra point. UCF’s 18 penalties made it look like an unorganized, unprepared football team. The fact of the matter is you simply cannot expect to win football games that way. They all know that, the entire UCF program knows that.

After the game UCF head coach Josh Heupel said, “Turnovers were huge in the football game. We gave up the one play at the end of the half. We had a turnover on the kickoff. At the end of the day all three facets of the game have to work together. We have to play better complementary football. Offensively you start moving and then you get yourself behind the chains. Eventually you’re not going to be able to overcome those things and it costs us a ball game tonight.”

The reality is UCF’s College Football Playoff hopes are fully shut. The window of opportunity is no longer there for the 2020 campaign. In what seemed like a potential playoff berth season for UCF football, once again it’s disappointment. The undefeated season lasted for two weeks.

Game Notes

** Tulsa beat UCF in their last five meetings.

** The Knights committed 19 false start penalties in the past two games.

** UCF is no longer ranked in the top 25, and the AAC takes a blow with this loss.

** Next up, Tulsa will host Cincinnati on Oct. 17.

** The Knights will travel to Memphis on Oct. 17.

Photo courtesy of UCFKnights.com